Three key technologies, identified in the pre-budget statement by The Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the government's 'eight great technologies' to drive UK growth, are to receive an 85 million investment for capital equipment.
Speaking at the Global Intelligent Systems conference in London, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, announced the results of a call for proposals issued by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Funding will be made available to more than 20 universities across the UK to support and strengthen existing research in the areas of Robotics and Autonomous systems, Advanced Materials, and Grid-scale energy storage.
Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said: "For Britain to get ahead in the global race we have to back emerging technologies and ensure our universities have the latest equipment. This capital investment will help scientists make new discoveries and take their research through to commercial success. It will drive growth and support the Government's industrial strategy."
The investment will underpin key sectors for the UK economy, including automotive, manufacturing, aerospace, energy, and healthcare.
*Robotics and autonomous systems will receive:
EPSRC Grant of 25 million with additional funding contributions of 8.4 million from higher education institutions and 6 million from industrial partners
= Total of 39.4 million
*Advanced materials will receive:
EPSRC Grant of 30 million with additional funding contributions of 11.7 million from higher education institutions and 5.5 million from industrial partners
= Total of 47.2 million
*Grid-scale energy storage will receive:
EPSRC Grant of 30 million with additional funding contributions of 9.8 million from higher education institutions and 5.8 million from industrial partners
= Total of 45.6 million
Professor David Delpy, EPSRC Chief Executive said: "The successful bids will build capability in areas that are vital for the country and where exciting research is already being carried out. Developing new ways to storing energy, creating new materials for manufacturing and other industries, and increasing our understanding of how autonomous systems communicate, learn and work with humans."
Examples of facilities benefiting from funding are:
*Micro-engineering facilities at Imperial College London for the development of miniaturised robots for surgery and targeted therapy. Which will be supported by advances in materials, micro-fabrication and micro-machining, as well as rapid prototyping technologies.
These robots are expected to have impact on minimally invasive procedures including gastrointestinal, urological, neuro, cardiac, endovascular, paediatric, and orthopaedic surgeries.
*An internationally leading facility at the University of Bristol for understanding the evolving microstructure of advanced composite materials.
The facility will build on the Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS) which has major industrial backing and works closely with the National Composites Centre (NCC, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
*A new research facility at Brunel University to deliver revolutionary new manufacturing methods for UK carmakers. There will be a focus on reusing metal many times to reduce new metal mining and revolutionary new metal casting techniques, will benefit British car makers . The 14 million Advanced Metal Casting Centre (AMCC) at Brunel will bridge the gap between fundamental research and full-scale industrial trials
The centre is jointly funded by EPSRC, the aluminium automotive sheet & extrusions solutions provider Constellium, Brunel, and a major luxury car manufacturer.
* The creation of a Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with the University of Hull and industrial partners, to accelerate development of cryogenic energy storage (CES) technology and novel materials at lower cost. The new Centre will be the UK's first dedicated research facility for energy storage using cryogenic liquids, comprising new laboratories, state of the art equipment, and a major demonstration plant. This will keep the UK at the leading edge of CES research and development.
The 'liquid air' technology could revolutionise the storage of energy, reducing the costs of integrating intermittent generation into the electricity system and ensuring power is available when it is most needed.
Cryogenic energy storage systems use off-peak electricity to liquefy air. The cryogenic liquid that is formed is stored in a vessel then vapourised into a gas during an expansion process, which drives a turbine. This system generates electricity when it is most needed; taking off-peak electricity and using it at peak times will solve the 'wrong-time wrong-place' energy generation and supply problem. A grid-connected pilot plant has been operating in Slough since 2010.